And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” – 1 Kings 3:25-27 ESV
I need to be honest here and say this story is way down the list of favorite Bible stories. I find it unusual to say the least. But all of scripture is able to teach us (2 Timothy 3:16), so I started thinking about this passage to see how it can apply life. I thought about how we could glean things about not being jealous. Or how not gain at the cost of others. Or of the cost of not letting go during times of loss. However, let’s be honest and say that none of those things are what this story is supposed to be about, really. The bickering women are merely the stage setting for the real story: Solomon’s wisdom. In fact, the last verse of chapter 3 says, “And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” (1 Kings 3:28 ESV) What the people who saw this event took away from it was not anything to do with conflict resolution or women’s issues or even weird discernment techniques. Instead, they saw the wisdom of God in Solomon. Why?
I don’t know why two prostitutes were bringing their case to the King instead of an underling. Maybe they’d gone to all the people that were supposed to be dealing with them, and no one had been able to come up with an answer. Maybe they had “Free Visit with the King Day” in ancient Israel. Who knows what the reason was. But here they were and there was nowhere else to go. After the king spoke, it would all be decided, no appeals, no arguing.
In this place of finding their final answer, Solomon did something important: he stopped listening to their words. Instead, he found a way to make them choose based on their professed beliefs. He knew they would talk incessantly and never budge an inch on what they claimed. So, he found a way to put rubber to the road and choose: the baby living at the risk of being with the wrong momma, or ending the child’s life. Solomon made them face a terrible, but very real choice. Kings with absolute power could kill anyone without being questioned by anyone. This showed their true colors. Not because Solomon reasoned with them, not because they were convinced to change their mind, but because of this: they had to act on their beliefs. One knew she was the child’s mother and the other was acting out of personal gain. Their reaction to that ultimatum was the revealing of their true heart. The mother sacrificed the most important thing to her in order to protect it. This is the root of Solomon’s wisdom, talk is cheap and action is revealing.
Using that truth, I can easily see that there is wisdom to apply to my life. I can say what I want to say. I can pick sides in arguments. I can claim allegiance with certain groups of thought, political groups, or whatever else wants my time and attention. I can talk and think and believe. None of it matters, though, until you see how I act. Now, I don’t mean act in just any situation on just any day. I mean act when you’re back’s against the wall, where’s no other way out but through the battle, when the decision that is about to handed down is absolutely final, no do-overs. Then what? What becomes my priorities then?
I can say that generosity is more important than any material goods, but when I’m down to my last dollar, where does it go? I can say that I believe all people are equal, but when it comes to letting them into my home, do I open my doors?
Acting contrary to what you say has several names: if you do it on accident, it’s called naiveté. If you do it in full knowledge of the discrepancy, it’s called hypocrisy. Don’t live as a hypocritical Christian. When the pressure’s on and you have no other options left, be the person who’s actions are in line with their spoken beliefs.